Since I am really and truly fried from my recent ordeals I am going to intermittently post older but relevant writings which led me to start this thing in the first place. I tell this particular story often but this is my blog and I’m damn well going to tell it again here. I think it’s good for a laugh and rather than require the thought needed to write a new post, it just required some editing. Enjoy.
It’s always interesting to see what element or elements of my life people relate to, or are repulsed by. The plus side of being me is that I almost always can find some area of commonality with people I meet in the course of a day. The down side is that there is pretty much always something that the same person would not be ok with.
An illustration: One of the non-central but significant things about me is that I am a gun owner. This wasn’t always the case but an event last year convinced me and my family to “arm-up” as a friend calls it. Although I purchased my first gun in response to this little incident, I have discovered two interesting facts about myself. One is that I really enjoy shooting. The other is that when I keep in practice I am quite good at it.
In order to stay good at it I feel it is important to practice my shooting on a regular basis, not to mention that I find it quite relaxing. I know that sounds pretty absurd if you haven’t tried it, but it is true, at least for me.
When this story took place, we lived in Veromont and shot at the local National Guard Armory range because it had a partial roof and we live in the frozen north. My partners and I find it somewhat ironic that the we used to shoot pretty much weekly at the Guard range, when in fact many of the guard probably didn’t, but of course we are all banned from military service because queers don’t belong in combat. I couldn’t serve anyway with the barking like a dog thing and the broken neck thing, but that’s not the point is it?
Last fall my partners Summer and Fire and I went to the guard range on a Sunday morning. We brought Dani with us, a young woman who was trying to experience the guardian and warrior archetype and whose mentor asked me to take her out to the range. The disaster which was Dani with a gun will have to wait for another time. It was what was sure to be one of the last warm days of the year and I had chosen to wear my black Utilikilt, which for those of you who don’t know is a modern kilt made by a great company in Seattle Washington.
Just as we were packing to leave, a gentleman drove up in an older Ford F-150 pickup. Now I know this is stereotyping. But when an older dude in plaid drives up to a shooting range in a beaten on pickup my sphincter just tightens up. The fact is that where we were living in Southern Vermont the rednecks well outnumber the artsy queers. This time it seems my stereotyping was spot on.
Seeing that I was carrying two pretty significant pistols (we were loading the cars to leave) he immediately struck up a conversation with me. If you are going to own a gun, you have to get used to random people approaching you and complaining about the “evils of liberalism.” Since we live near Massachusetts, this sometimes takes the form of bitching about “the People’s Republic or Massachusetts” as many good-old-boys both in Vermont and in New Hampshire where we now live call it.
Now I grew up in Mass, and while I strongly disagree with the degree of restrictions they place on gun ownership, which hasn’t seemed to make places, like the shit-sucking city I grew up in any safer, I agree with most everything else there. Aside of course for the cost of living and doing business which is how my partners and I found our way to Vermont. That said it is not generally a good idea to let folks know you feel this way. Especially when you are pretty much guaranteed the folk in question has at least one gun, accidents can happen.
So I took the coward’s way out. I smiled a bit distantly, busied myself with getting everything back into the car, grunted distantly in the appropriate places and prayed to my gods and anyone else’s who would listen that he did not notice the bumper stickers on my partner Fire’s car (One is an anti-circumcision sticker, the other reads “last time we mixed politics and religion people got burned at the stake). Once Fire and Summer had driven off I shut the rear hatch of my wagon and almost leapt in. As I wished the gentleman a nice day of shooting, he hesitated a moment before leaning close to my open window. In a low conspiratorial voice he said:
“Say, are you folks like one of those undercover narcotics units?”
When you have Tourette Syndrome and have barked like a dog for the last 13 years you get used to people asking strange or unexpected questions. On the other hand, there are some questions that you never in a million years think someone will ask. This was high on that second list. Clearly this was the only way to make sense of what he was seeing. Four twenty-something’s in somewhat hip clothing (we were heading down to Northampton MA so Dani could get a tattoo in a few hours), but with guns.
Since we clearly looked like the young, liberal kids he so dislikes, but had guns and could make conversation with him, we couldn’t be what we seemed. Clearly I was not the only one here engaged in stereotyping. I should note that in truth, I was the only one who could make conversation. Dani was fumming in a gods-be-praised, silent fashion, and Fire and Summer drove off as soon as their car was loaded.
The only hypothesis that fit the evidence for this individual was that our outward appearance was some sort of disguise. I probably could have taken this opportunity to do some sort of education or horizon broadening. It is distantly possible that I could have explained who we are and he and I could have had a useful dialog which would have left us both richer people for the experience. I didn’t.
Another lesson that Tourette teaches you is that you have to pick your battles and this failed to meet my standards of worth-it. More significantly though, in the back of my head from the moment he asked his question was Erny Hudson in the film Ghostbusters saying “Ray, when someone asks you ‘are you a god,’ you say Yes!” Since impersonating an officer of the law is a crime, I leaned in closer and said equally conspiratorially.
“Of course not.